A debut author intimately explores his midlife struggle to confront a low-grade depression that allowed him professional and personal success but prevented him from experiencing joy.
In 1988, at age 41, Finger lost his job with the North Carolina Study Commission on Aging, finding himself in a psychologically downward spiral that threatened to overwhelm him and his family. He had suffered from periods of depression before, but had always plowed through, using school, Peace Corps participation, work, and family responsibilities to keep his mind focused. But this time, although he began picking up assorted writing/consulting projects, he couldn’t seem to move past a growing sadness that caused him to draw further into himself: “The transitions in my life, both large and small, have triggered what I have learned are symptoms of depression—worry, lack of hope, workaholism, irritability, and sleeplessness.” A men’s support group that he joined before the firing had been offering activity-oriented workshops; Finger decided to give them a try. It was the beginning of a decadelong journey to self-discovery. He sought help through traditional treatment (psychotherapy and Prozac) and learned to express his emotions through modern dance. Finger brings readers through every step of his personal revelations and progressions, be they detailed reporting of symbolic dreams, poems written to celebrate workshop occasions, or the dances he choreographed, described movement by movement. He writes: “I start doing little crane dances to accent my long, thin arms as huge wings, my hands bent at the wrist, fingers pointing down. My lean legs, balancing on one and then the other, complement the picture. Bending my left knee, I pick my right leg up. Then, I raise my forearms up, fingers pointing to the sky.... I try to call up the crane within me and remember that survival is possible.” The prose is polished, often poignant, displaying an engaging honesty. But less would have been more when it comes to Finger’s exhaustive mental meanderings through his memories and self-analysis.
A rambling account offers support and intriguing coping techniques for men suffering from clinical depression.